Los Angeles, CA (January 23, 2008)- Millions of gallons of polluted stormwater that runs off state highways each year will be kept out of Southern California waters and off the region’s beaches after two environmental groups and the California Department of Transportation came to an agreement in federal court on Friday.
The state agency, known as Caltrans, will reduce runoff from 1,000 miles of highway across Los Angeles and Ventura counties under the agreement with the Natural Resources Defense Council, NRDC, and Santa Monica Baykeeper. “Highways are the backbone of Southern California’s economy, but they are also a major source of toxic pollution in our waterways,” said David Beckman, director of NRDC’s Coastal Water Quality Project and lead attorney for the plaintiff groups. “Every rainstorm sends a toxic soup of oil, grease, lead and other dangerous ingredients that accumulate on our roads, rushing into Santa Monica Bay. This agreement means cleaner water and safer beaches for everyone in the region,” Beckman said.
Under the agreement Caltrans, which operates the largest freeway system in the country, will reduce runoff pollution from its freeways in Los Angeles and Ventura counties by 20 percent compared to 1994 levels. Caltrans will examine 1,000 miles of freeway corridors in the region, completing pollution reduction blueprints for each corridor by 2011. When fully implemented, the new measures are expected to keep more than millions of pounds of pollution out of area waters every year. Toxic metals like lead and zinc will be reduced by almost 24,000 pounds per year, the NRDC says.
When it rains currently, the stormwater drains off quickly, but the runoff is not filtered, so toxic metals, oil, grease and other contaminants on the pavement are carried into the region’s waters and eventually to the ocean. In an average year, the California Environmental Protection Agency says, more than six million gallons of oil run into California’s waters from roads and sidewalks.
Cleanup options include sand traps, catch basins and new porous pavement surfaces that catch polluted runoff and absorb the contaminants. Such methods have been tested in studies jointly administered by Caltrans and NRDC, and have been shown to be effective. The agreement by the state to embrace these best management practices on new highways as well as existing ones is a first, and has the potential to become a national model.
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